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CHIPS Articles: Interview with Rear Adm. Kenneth D. Slaght

Interview with Rear Adm. Kenneth D. Slaght
By CHIPS Magazine - April-June 2002
CHIPS asked Rear Adm. Slaght, Commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, to comment on some of the Navy IT issues that CHIPS has reported on in the last 20 years. The following is from an interview with Rear Adm. Slaght on February 19, 2002.

CHIPS: In an earlier interview with CHIPS (Fall 2001 issue), when asked about the changes in the Department that have been most significant and exciting to you as a Naval officer and IT professional, you said that the whole concept of network-centric warfare-based warfighting capability was most significant. You made your remarks in early August, yet in view of the events of September 11, your analysis seems almost like a forecast of how time-critical this capability is to national defense. Have these efforts been accelerated in the last few months?

Rear Adm. Slaght: Absolutely. These efforts have grown exponentially over the last few months. With the accelerated schedule for six-month deployments, we have been keeping closely in touch with the fleet commanders to respond quickly to their requirements. In addition, since 9/11, my staff and I have been meeting with the Fleet C4I commanders twice weekly via VTC to emphasize and resolve every C4I issue we have to insure the Fleet is getting everything they need as fast as possible. These meetings have built a tight working relationship between SPAWAR and the LANT/PAC Fleet N6 staffs. More than ever, we are able to address issues immediately and respond to requirements as they are developing.

CHIPS: Early issues of CHIPS featured articles on the frustrations expressed by senior level officials and the average user with the Navy's acquisition system for purchasing software/hardware — by the time the contracts were awarded — the technology had already moved on. Do you think this problem has been fixed?

Rear Adm. Slaght: We are getting close. We have much greater flexibility and agility to meet our requirements than ever before. September 11, changed everything — it was a wake-up call for all of us. I think this acquisition flexibility is best evidenced by the acceleration of our six-month deployments — we are able to outfit our ships and naval forces in an amazingly short period of time.

The traditional Navy system has made a tremendous effort. The acquisition community is doing what is right and industry is playing a big part. This accelerated responsiveness to the fleet has all been done within the acquisition laws and regulations — within the DoD 5000. This has been a continuous joint effort by the acquisition community, industry and the Navy program sponsors, and it was done correctly using the rules of competition. I'm very optimistic that the acquisition rules and regulations will not need major modifications. They can work — we have seen they can work, and they can continue to work — if we all keep working together.

[Department of Defense] Secretary Rumsfield said that he would be announcing a transformation of the government contracting process. As one of the acquisition commanders, I look forward to participating in the transformation.

CHIPS: Other early CHIPS articles were primarily focused on "how-to's" for the multitude of software/hardware and operating systems used in the Department: dBase; Progress; Enable; Lotus 1-2-3; MultiMate; Word Perfect; WordStar; Harvard Graphics; Unix; Microsoft; Macintosh; etc. Do you think the NMCI contract has finally established a meaningful standard to meet the hardware and software requirements of the department?

Rear Adm. Slaght: Absolutely. That is one of the reasons why implementing NMCI has been such a challenge, because we are facing all the inconsistencies of all the systems in use in the Navy. If NMCI weren't a challenge, frankly, I'd be nervous, because that would mean it wasn't getting to the heart of the matter. The two most significant benefits of the NMCI standards are: the reduction in legacy systems and the security aspects. The security controls of the network are critical to the Navy and to network-centric warfare. This is the right answer for the Navy.

CHIPS: In the April 1989 issue, CHIPS commented that statistics reported by Navy Regional Data Automation Center (NARDAC) Norfolk experts reveal that there are between 75,000 and 100,000 homegrown software programs in the Navy. The most surprising estimate is that at least 80 percent of those are duplicates. At the time there is disagreement in the Navy on whether this is a waste of resources, a reinvention of the wheel or a mark of professional development among Navy programmers, database managers, etc., which will make the Navy more self-efficient in matters of IT.

Rear Adm. Slaght: This was not the first time thoughts like these surfaced. They come up from time to time. We went though this again when we were preparing for Y2K — when we were actually getting our hands around all the applications and legacy systems we had. I'm not saying we should throw everything out. We still want to encourage innovation and allow our warfighters to be willing to take risks to produce something better, but they need to do it within a construct. So that if something fails it doesn't make everything else fail too or make the network go down. There has got to be a balance between growth, and a stable and safe environment.

One of our key programs Global Command & Control System–Maritime (GCCS-M) is actually homegrown. GCCS-M is a major part of our C4ISR network and is the "steward" of the Common Operational Picture for Navy implementation of IT-21. It demonstrates the power of a shared network with a single integrated system that receives, processes, displays and maintains current geological information on friendly, hostile and neutral land, sea and air forces with intelligence and environmental information. This is the power of network-centric warfare.

CHIPS: At the Navy Micro '89 conference, Rear Adm. Paul Tobin (Director, Information Resources Management, Information Systems) said, "...40 percent of the Navy Z-248 purchased computers were not being used." Do you think that the department is getting full value for its IT investment?

Rear Adm. Slaght: This is something that industry has struggled with and has never been able to figure out. How much does a pound of C4ISR cost and what is its value-added? It's very hard to quantify. Should we continue to work at it? Yes! In the Department of the Navy we continue to quantify and prioritize every requirement. SPAWAR works with every battlegroup commander to make sure that the balance between IT requirements and other warfare requirements — ships, bombs, etc., are met. We work closely, and this is ongoing with OPNAV and the fleet commanders to identify, quantify and prioritize the needs of the warfighter.

CHIPS: Rear Adm. Grace Hopper was an early admirer and supporter of CHIPS, she said that the capability of what computers can do and Navy IT progress will only be limited by our imaginations.

Rear Adm. Slaght: I have great admiration for Rear Adm. Hopper. She was the first IT visionary. Thank God, she was wearing a Navy uniform. She actually planted the seeds of network-centric warfare. She and [Retired] Vice Adm. [Arthur K.] Cebrowski, who is the father of network-centric warfare and now is the DoD Director, Force Transformation, set the stage for much of what we have today, like the implementation of CNO's vision for FORCEnet and leveraging what we know to come up with something better.

CHIPS: Any words of advice to CHIPS on the occasion of its 20th anniversary?

Rear Adm. Slaght: Focus on the needs of the fleet — be a voice for them. IT is only an enabler — our Sailors and Marines make it all work. We should all be doing our very best for them. This is a very important role that CHIPS can play. CHIPS is a venue to share the latest IT information. It's easy for any of us to get wrapped up in technology for technologies' sake, but our touchstone must always be the Fleet. We need to invest in the right IT to ensure they have the tools they need to accomplish the mission. CHIPS is great forum for the fleet and our IT engineers to share information and discuss emerging requirements.

"... FORCEnet is the Navy's transformational architecture for how Navy and Marine Corps elements will be linked with Joint, Allied, and coalition forces through seamless, interoperable integration with the Department of Defense (DoD) Global Information Grid (GIG). The Navy is working from every angle to make the FORCEnet architecture a reality. For simplicity, I will group the FORCEnet building blocks into the following areas: infrastructure, content delivery, rapid insertion of new technologies, and application integration."

- Taken from Rear Adm. Slaght’s testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, Research and Development Subcommittee, Feb. 20, 2002.

House Arms Services Committee, Research and Development Subcommittee, Testimony on "Navy Transformation," Feb. 20, 2002, San Diego, Calif.  Left to right:  Rear Adm. Jay M. Cohen, Chief of Naval Research; Rear Adm. Kenneth D. Slaght, Commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command; Rear Adm. Robert G. Sprigg, Commander, Navy Warfare Development Command.  Rear Adm. Slaght spoke about the U.S. Navy in transition and the range of C4ISR systems, their current capabilities and the vision for the future.
House Arms Services Committee, Research and Development Subcommittee, Testimony on "Navy Transformation," Feb. 20, 2002, San Diego, Calif. Left to right: Rear Adm. Jay M. Cohen, Chief of Naval Research; Rear Adm. Kenneth D. Slaght, Commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command; Rear Adm. Robert G. Sprigg, Commander, Navy Warfare Development Command. Rear Adm. Slaght spoke about the U.S. Navy in transition and the range of C4ISR systems, their current capabilities and the vision for the future.
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